With the NHL Entry Draft coming up in less than two weeks, many National Hockey League fans across the
The Canadian Hockey League (CHL) is currently the primary NHL talent pool – the major source for new talent brought into the league by way of their yearly entry. The majority of North American-born players that have made it to the NHL have played for teams belonging to the CHL. And few European-born players have also taken that route as well. Here’s a quick overview of what the CHL is and how it operates.
The CHL is an umbrella organization that includes the Western Hockey League (WHL), the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and the Québec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). It is an extension of what Americans would equate with baseball’s Little League system; major junior hockey being the approximate equivalent to American Legion Baseball. Typically, it includes 16- to 20-year-old boys, the bulk of whom are from
Boys are forced to decide at a relatively early age whether or not they would like to play collegiate hockey. If a boy decides to play for a major junior team, then they are ruled ineligible to play for an NCAA-sanctioned team. Many players choose to take the major junior route over college because it is generally believed to be a more direct path to the NHL. However, it has become more common for the NHL to draft collegiate players in recent years. The major junior route is still largely the most preferred.
The CHL is set up very similarly to the NHL in terms of travel, schedule, and player transactions. The WHL plays a 70-game regular season schedule, while the OHL and the QMJHL play a 68-game regular season schedule. Often, players leave home to play hockey at 16 to live with host families (also called billets) and to attend schools located in the towns where they play. Teams in all three major junior leagues trade players just like the NHL, only without being hampered by salaries and salary caps. They do not trade players between leagues, however, though a player can switch leagues if he chooses – and if there’s a team willing to take him.
Travel schedules can be extensive, and can cover a great deal of area. Teams typically travel by bus between games, which is similar to how the minor hockey leagues in
The WHL covers the largest amount of area of all of the leagues in the CHL, literally spreading out across the western half of
The OHL covers perhaps the smallest amount of area. The league has 20 teams that cover the
The QMJHL has 18 teams that are spread out across the
The winners of all three leagues play for the Memorial Cup at the end of May each season to determine the overall champion of the CHL. A host city with a major junior team is determined before the season starts, and the team from that city gets to participate, giving the tournament four teams. Occasionally, the host city team wins the championship, but that’s not typical.
The 2009 Memorial Cup Tournament was held in
In total, the CHL stretches across